Jeff Carter, Mike Richards

Flyers blockbusters: Trade Jeff Carter to Columbus and Mike Richards to Los Angeles

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Back in 2003 at the NHL Draft, Philadelphia was able to select forwards Jeff Carter and Mike Richards, a pair of guys the Flyers felt they could build around for the future and win the Stanley Cup with. Now, just a day before the 2011 NHL Draft in Minnesota, both of them on their way out of town in separate trades.

Thursday afternoon’s madness began with the Flyers sending Carter to Columbus for restricted free agent forward Jakub Voracek and first and third round picks in the draft. Voracek has been slowly emerging as a power forward force in Columbus and while playing alongside Rick Nash he’s become a better player. Carter has been a perennial 30-40 goal scoring center and now he’ll line up with Nash in Columbus. The Blue Jackets and GM Scott Howson have been talking about making a big splash this summer one way or another and acquiring Carter does just that.

The other stunning deal sees Flyers captain Mike Richards off to Los Angeles in exchange for Wayne Simmonds and highly touted prospect centerman Brayden Schenn. Richards will give L.A. a definitive second line center behind Anze Kopitar and a guy that provides a ton of snarl to the lineup. The Flyers getting Simmonds and Schenn gives them another young center to join Claude Giroux and Daniel Briere in Philadelphia and now an instant chance to make a splash in the NHL after Kings GM Dean Lombardi wouldn’t give him the green light last year.

The Flyers clearing out both Richards and Carter will now clear the way to sign goalie Ilya Bryzgalov to whatever contract he might want now. The rumored deal that Bryzgalov was looking for was a seven-year, $50 million deal with a cap hit of just over $7 million a year. With Carter and Richards both out, the Flyers have moved out 20 years worth of contract commitments to those two worth $102 million. Richards’ deal was a 12-year deal worth $69 million, good for a $5.75 million cap hit while Carter’s was a 11-year $58 million deal with a cap hit of just over $5.2 million.

(Update: Flyers sign Ilya Bryzgalov to nine-year $51 million deal)

With over $10 million gone from the cap, the Flyers now have $51 million committed to next season’s cap and with a salary cap of around $64 million set for next season that’s more than enough space to get Bryzgalov and Voracek signed as well as having flexibility to add elsewhere. It’s an unreal more for Flyers GM Paul Holmgren to free up this kind of cap space and a gutsy one as well as both Carter and Richards were beloved in Philly as well as being their top two centers. Now that role shifts to Giroux to lead the way up the middle.

For the Kings they’ve got their second center in Richards and with a potential trade of Ryan Smyth elsewhere, they’ll have to be a bit more active in the free agent market this summer to help give the team some depth. Giving up Schenn is a move that will keep eyes on the Kings and on Schenn’s progress in his career.

Some tough decisions await the Blues

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Yet again, the St. Louis Blues failed to achieve their ultimate goal.

And boy does it hurt right now.

“We’re all hurting,” coach Ken Hitchcock said last night after getting eliminated by the San Jose Sharks in the Western Conference Final.

“You don’t want this to be our best opportunity. You want this to be a building block. In this game, in this era, in this cap world, you don’t know where you’re going to be a year from now.”

Indeed, GM Doug Armstrong has some tough decisions to make this offseason.

At the top of the list is whether to bring Hitchcock back. Yes, the Blues did better than 26 other teams, and yes, they finally got past the first round. Still, there are people who believe this will be it for the head coach, that a new voice could help. Overall, Hitchcock has done a great job in St. Louis. But then, so did Todd McLellan in San Jose. Sometimes, change can be good.

Then there are the unrestricted free agents. Both captain David Backes and winger Troy Brouwer need new contracts. The former is 32, the latter 30. The former had seven goals in the playoffs, the latter eight. How much money will they want? How much term? The second question might be the most important.

On the back end, it’s Kevin Shattenkirk that will garner the most attention. He’s signed through next season before he can become an unrestricted free agent. Just 27 years old, and considering the demand for what he does, he’ll be very expensive to keep. And with the emergence of Colton Parayko, trading Shattenkirk could probably be justified, especially if the return is good. A team like the Boston Bruins might be willing to pay up.

Right now, the pain is still fresh for the Blues.

“It’s so hard to win in the league right now,” said Hitchcock. “It’s so hard to win a series. So hard to just get in the playoffs. When you get this far, you get this close, you think you got the opportunity.”

The challenge for Armstrong will be to give his team another opportunity next season. And with the draft less than a month away, all these tough decisions will need to be made very soon.

Goals of the Week get tougher as Cup Final approaches

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The Stanley Cup Final is almost upon us and picking the very best Goals of the Week is a tough task. See how we did on this edition!

Just for Men: Mike Commodore

RALEIGH, NC - JUNE 14:  Mike Commodore #22 of the Carolina Hurricanes warms up before game five of the 2006 NHL Stanley Cup Finals against the Edmonton Oilers on June 14, 2006 at the RBC Center in Raleigh, North Carolina.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Getty
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Maybe one would argue that time hasn’t been kind to the 2006 Stanley Cup-winning Carolina Hurricanes (at least compared to the pedigree of other winners), but Mike Commodore’s incredible red afro and beard rank as one of hockey’s most timeless combinations.

Seriously, just take a step back from your monitor* and bask in the splendor of that carrot-topped Commodore.

Even then-President George W. Bush remarked on Commodore’s bushy hair and beard (or its tragic absence) when the Canes visited the White House:

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you all for coming. Have a seat. It’s a pretty big deal for a guy that doesn’t know how to ice skate — (laughter) — to welcome the Carolina Hurricanes to the White House. We appreciate you coming. You know, I’m not sure what is prettier, the Stanley Cup, or Mike Commodore’s hair. (Laughter.) A little disappointed you got a haircut. (Laughter.) But, welcome.

Good stuff.

And it really is kind of disappointing any time you see Commodore relatively clean-shaven. It’s like Superman without a big “S” on his chest or Metallica with short hair or any number of not-quite-right sights.

* – If you’re doing the Rumsfeld-style “standing at your desk” thing then … kneel for a second maybe?

Here’s your Stanley Cup playoffs schedule for tonight

Stanley Cup
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There’s nothing better than a Game 7, especially when a spot in the Stanley Cup Final is up for grabs. The Tampa Bay Lightning and Pittsburgh Penguins will battle in a do-or-die game for the right to play the San Jose Sharks with Lord Stanley on the line. You can watch the game via the NBC Sports Group’s television and digital platforms.

Tampa Bay at Pittsburgh (8:00 p.m. ET)

The television broadcast of Game 7 will be on NBCSN. To stream the game using the Live Extra app, click here.

Here’s some reading material to get you ready for this one:

Penguins, Lightning prepare for ‘roller coaster’ Game 7

Penguins force Game 7 after holding off Lightning rally

Lightning lament Game 6 effort, Cooper doesn’t blame disallowed goal